The herbicide Roundup is commonly used on lawns and on farms in Burlington County and nationwide to kill weeds. However, not all are convinced that the weedkiller is safe. In an August 2019 lawsuit, a groundskeeper who was exposed to Roundup and subsequently suffered from cancer was awarded approximately $300 million in damages from Monsanto, the company that manufactures Roundup. And, in a more recent federal lawsuit, a jury determined that Roundup played a substantial role in the cancer of a 70-year-old man who had used the product for many years.
In these product liability cases, the person bringing the lawsuit must show that the product was the specific cause of the damages the person suffered. This is a high standard to meet, especially when it comes to diagnosing cancer. But, the plaintiffs’ evidence in the Roundup cases were enough to convince the two juries that Roundup was the specific cause of the cancer the plaintiffs suffered.
Proof in a scientific sense is not always the same as proof in a legal sense. When there is a lawsuit there is a deadline for a discovery that is not present when scientists are trying to prove whether something is safe. This means that sometimes a legal decision must be made as to whether a product is safe to sell before scientists have reached their own conclusions regarding product safety. While sometimes a products liability case can be clear-cut, other times a legal argument must be based on studies that may or may not be sufficient to prove the plaintiff’s damages were caused by the product at issue.
However, as these recent cases show, while the “specific cause” of cancer can be difficult to prove for legal purposes, it is certainly not impossible. That being said, products liability cases can be very complex, oftentimes necessitating the use of expert witnesses along with scientific studies. Those who are interested in learning more about “specific cause” in the context of product liability cases can seek legal guidance on this important topic.